When I drive, I really and truly try to operate my minivan in a manner that won't inconvenience or irritate other people on the road. I swear it. I know what it's like to be driving behind someone who's meandering along at ten miles per hour under the speed limit; I know what it's like to nearly be run off into a ditch by someone talking on a cell phone. I even know what it's like to have to drive up on a city sidewalk for a half a block or so because a fellow motorist didn't check her mirrors before pulling into my lane. Scare-reeeee!
But sometimes, I do things that I don't...well, I mean...sometimes I do really stupid things. After I do them, I think to myself, "You're lucky that some road-rager wasn't behind you when you did that, or you'd probably just have been given the one-finger salute. Or shot in the head."
Yesterday was the day that my two nephews, Kieren (14) and Dayden (7), came to stay with us for the day. My brother, Pat, works about three blocks from where I live and it's a simple matter for him to drop the boys off before work. These are days that the girls and I really look forward to. Everything is more fun when The Boys are here: being awake in the morning is more fun (Pat has to be at work approximately two hours before Meelyn and Aisling drag their eyes open on an ordinary day), having lunch is more fun. Going to the pool and even sitting around playing cards at the dining room table after a thunderstorm ran us off from the swim club is more fun.
Yesterday was also the day that Meelyn got her Indiana state learner's permit. Before we went to the BMV, we had to run an errand to the driving school, which involved my writing out a check for a slightly enormous sum of money to pay for the classes, and I guess that's what made me drive like such a freak. The van full of nephews and daughters and me was rolling down the street and I was braking and indicating my right-hand turn to pull into the A+ Driving Academy. There were cars behind me and I was feeling rather smugly pleased at my courtesy; most people treat their turn signals as if flipping them up or down will set off a nuclear war or at least label them as sissies who follow the rules of the road like a herd of sheep.
I turned into the Academy's parking lot still basking in the light of my own glory, when suddenly the van was heaved up and thrown left rather violently. The kids were shaken around like pieces of popcorn in a popper and I let out a startled scream. The van whammed back down to the surface of the blacktop and resumed its ordinary upright status.
"Mom!" Meelyn's eyes were wide with delighted horror. "You just drove over a HUGE cement curb. And I think some geraniums." She, Kieren and Aisling all began to laugh like hyenas, saying, "Whoooaaaaa! Rough pavement ahead!" and flinging themselves about in their seats.
"You are one craaaaazy driver, Aunt Shelley," remarked Dayden. "Can you make the van go up in the sky again and shoot at other cars like a UFO with a laser?" He began making piercing laser-style shooting noises, pointing his finger at other cars.
"Dayden, don't shoot at other drivers. It makes them nervous," I said, ignoring the teenagers.
"You know what makes me nervous?" offered Aisling. She continued before I could say an emphatic no. "Driving through other people's landscaping and squashing their shrubbery. That's what makes me nervous."
Stung, I retorted, "I did not drive over any landscaping! Maybe one geranium. And a little mulch."
"You do see that girl on the bicycle over there don't you?" said Meelyn, pointing out a distant figure about three blocks away. "Because geraniums are fairly easy to replace. But her, I don't think."
"Oh, hush," I said. I chose a parking space to pull in to, directly in front of a young man sitting on an outdoor bench. He was listening to an iPod and leafing through a magazine, enjoying the pleasant day.
Until I drove up, that is. I didn't realize that there was, in addition to the expected sidewalk curb, also one of those long, flattish cement barrier thingies. Why both? Was the curb not enough? The cement barrier seemed superfluous, until I drove right up on it, scraping the underside of Applesauce Anne's nose with a grating sound that set my teeth on edge and started my LOVED ONES inside to start screaming with laughter all over again.
"Wow, right in front of the driving academy," marveled Kieren, who is a very reserved person like my dad and my brother, only not as reserved in this particular instance as I would have liked him to be.
The young man sitting on the bench looked up with some alarm, probably thinking that I was going to just keep on coming. He was prepared to seek shelter, if his reflexive movement toward higher ground was any indication. Seeing that I had come to a mortified stop, he settled back down with his magazine, chin tucked down on his chest to hide a wide smile.
Peony-hued with embarrassment, I put the van into reverse and we went backward off the cement barrier with a mighty bump and another scrape. A face momentarily appeared in the office window of the A+ Driving Academy, undoubtedly wondering if it was a student driver who was causing all the bumping and scraping and fleeing pedestrians. And flattened geraniums.
Meelyn, whose hands had covered her face the moment she took note of the young man on the bench during our ascent of the parking barrier, whispered, "I can't believe we have to get out of this thing and walk right past him. He is really cute."
"I'm sorry," I said with dignity, "but anyone should be able to see that it isn't necessary to have both a tall sidewalk curb and a cement barrier."
"'Anyone' should have been able to see the barrier," said Aisling, which sent her and Kieren off into more gales of wheezing laughter. Dayden uttered pizzzzzzzoooooooooor! pizzzzzzzzzzzzzooooor! from the rear seat, pointing his finger at two women coming out of a coffee shop.
I ignored her. "Come along, Meelyn," I said huffily, sliding the strap of my handbag onto my stiffened shoulder. I got out of the van, hoping that anyone who had witnessed our bouncy, banging entrance to the parking lot and parking space from the driving academy's or the coffee shop's windows wouldn't think I was out of my senses with drink so early on a Friday morning.
She came with me, carefully flipping her hair over her face as she passed the young man on the bench. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye and noticed that he was still looking terribly amused. I suddenly found a need to dig in my bag for a tissue.
"Okay, now, who are we signing up for driving lessons in here today?" Meelyn asked chattily, looping her arm through mine as I pulled open the academy's door. "Me? Or you?"
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